ST. LOUIS — Just before the start of the third inning, Matt Harvey trudged from the Mets dugout to the bullpen beyond left field. When Zack Wheeler, the Mets’ starter on Tuesday night, began to sputter an inning later, the bullpen phone rang for Harvey. And in the fifth, Harvey took the mound, beginning his new life as a reliever.
Harvey, who inherited a tie game after Yoenis Cespedes’s three-run homer in the fifth, showed the same old inconsistencies in his new role, and he gave up a tiebreaking double to Paul DeJong in the fifth.
But the Mets’ offense spared him from a loss. Todd Frazier scored the game-tying run in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Adrian Gonzalez, and Jay Bruce hit a go-ahead home run in the 10th that sent the Mets to a 6-5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
It was Harvey’s first appearance since the Mets (15-6) moved him to the bullpen and out of the crowded starting rotation, which was due to welcome back Jason Vargas from the disabled list on Saturday. They hoped Harvey, who entered the day with a 6.00 earned run average and diminished velocity, could work on his pitching woes in a reduced capacity, but the initial results were mediocre.
Harvey showed flashes of his old potential, but he coughed up a pair of hard-hit doubles by Dexter Flower and DeJong.
“I think Matt can be an asset to our team,” Bruce said, adding later: “I just want him to do well and I know everyone on the team wants the same.”
The Mets have said all the right things about Harvey, that he is upset about the move but willing to improve for the team’s sake, but his actions after the game said otherwise. He declined to speak with reporters, via a spokesman.
He lost his place in the rotation through a combination of his own ineffectiveness, the solid pitching of Wheeler, who had begun the season in Class AAA, and the anticipated return of Vargas, who has been out since mid-March with surgery to remove a broken bone in his non-throwing hand.
But Harvey’s demotion did not eliminate all competition for a spot in the rotation. Before the game, Mets Manager Mickey Callaway reminded reporters that Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Harvey had all been starters. Wheeler would need to continue proving his worth.
“Everybody should know that we’re not just going to hand out starting jobs because you’re a starter,” Callaway said.
Wheeler proceeded to add more uncertainty to the pitching equation, struggling through four innings. He gave up four runs on six hits, walking the first batter he faced and surrendering a two-run home run to Tommy Pham. He sputtered again in the fourth inning.
Wheeler plunked DeJong and gave up run-scoring hits to Kolten Wong and Luke Weaver, the opposing starting pitcher. In the bullpen, Harvey stretched and loosened his arm, surely trying to adjust to the unfamiliar rhythm of relieving after having started in all but one of his 105 career regular season appearances coming into the game.
Callaway had promised to give Harvey as much of a heads-up as possible, to give him ample time to warm up. Harvey threw a bullpen session on Saturday, the day he was told of his demotion, so Tuesday was the first day he was available to pitch in his new role.
Harvey warmed up, then sat to wait for the top of the fifth inning to end. He grabbed a seat just in time to watch Cespedes, who entered the day hitting .195 with 37 strikeouts, launch a 463-foot, game-tying blast off Weaver toward the second deck of Busch Stadium.
Before the game, Callaway said he wanted Harvey to get his feet wet out of the bullpen as soon as possible, preferably in a situation with no one on base. With Cespedes’s fortuitously timed shot, Harvey went from pitching in a deficit to protecting a tie.
After two quick outs, Harvey coughed up the run on fastballs that flew right over the plate. His fastball sat between 92 and 94 miles per hour, about the same as they had the rest of the season. He tossed a second inning, a scoreless frame that included a walk. He finished with two strikeouts.
“There’s no doubt that he went out there and attacked and tried to help the team,” Callaway said. “He’s manned up and he’s gonna go do the job.”
The Mets erased that run in the eighth inning when Frazier drew a walk, took third base on a single by Bruce, and scored on Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly. Thanks to stout bullpen work from Paul Sewald and Gsellman the tie held, and then Bruce, who entered the game hitting .194 with just one home run, delivered the go-ahead blast off Cardinals reliever Matt Bowman.
Published at Wed, 25 Apr 2018 04:58:19 +0000